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Early European Spice Info


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Spice mixtures have been used as long as spices themselves. The cooks in great medieval households had their blends of poudre blanche and poudre forte, which were usually 'pointed' (sharpened and dampened) with vinegar before being added to other ingredients. Ginger seems to have been the predominating flavor, with lesser amounts of cinnamon, cloves, pepper, saffron and grains of paradise. In the 13th and 14th centuries huge quantities of powdered sugar were mixed with the spices: presumably sugar and spice went together as an indication of wealth. By the 16th century the sugar had almost disappeared; there was more variety in spice blends for different dishes.
 
At this time, Italy led the way in cooking, and Ruperto de Nola, cook to the king of Naples, gives one of the earliest recipes for an unsweetened mixture, which he calls Salsa comun. This consists of: "3 parts cinnamon; 2 parts cloves; 1 part ginger: 1 part pepper with a little ground coriander and a little saffron, if wished".
 
LATER EUROPEAN SPICE MIXTURES
 
In the 17th century the use of large amounts of spices started to diminish: spices were more plentiful and cheaper, and although used by more people generally, were used less to exhibit status. Cookery books no longer give spice mixtures among the basic recipes at the start: the spicing needed is included in the individual recipes. In the 19th century there are more suggestions for mixed spices: Careme, the great French chef, proposes three parts peppercorns to one part of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, dried thyme and bayleaf, combined; and a small amount of ginger and mace. Anne Cobbett's "kitchen pepper" in the early 19th-century manual The English Housekeeper requires "an equal quantity of finely ground or pounded ginger, nutmeg, black pepper and allspice, cinnamon and cloves".
 
Today spice blends are used less widely in Europe than in the past. In France, quatre-epices is the most popular. In Britain, pudding spice and pickling spice are traditional mixes, still used today.
 
Source: Jill Norman "The Complete Book of Spices" Viking Studio Books, 1991 ISBN 0-670-83437-8 The book is lavishly illustrated with full color photographs of the herbs and spices- whole, mixed, ground.
 
Recipe by: Jill Norman * Web File 4/97
 
Posted to recipelu-digest Volume 01 Number 238 by "Diane Geary" <diane@keyway.net> on Nov 10, 1997